November 21, 2021 at St. Parishes in Naples, FL
Daniel 7, 13-14 + Psalm 93 + Revelation 1, 5-8 + John 18, 33-37
We have to be really careful with this feast and the image it promotes. The reputation of Kings through history is not too great, and nothing to be longed for. The kingship model was understandable to ancient communities. Royal images are common in the Scriptures, but they are not without problems. They can be easily misunderstood and mocked as when Pilate asked Jesus if he is king of the Jews. Comparing our relationship to God as that of subjects to a ruler can be a problem. While kingship can promote ideas of strength, longevity and authority, in reality it has often brought abuses of power, servitude, or slavery. In the end, what we have put before us today is the imagination of ancient communities. As we inherit this image, we might also inherit the struggle, the wish, and need to find a way to express our image of God.
As we now conclude this liturgical year in our church tradition and set aside the Gospel of Mark which we have proclaimed since last Advent, it might be profitable to review what image Mark has given us for Jesus. If you think about it, the image is anything but regal. Half of the Gospel is an effort on the part of Jesus to get his followers to understand that he is not going to establish a Royal and powerful reign that will crush the Romans and restore Israel to some former kind of earthly glory. He is going to be a suffering servant, obedient to the will of his father. The citizens of his kingdom will not be a privileged few who presume some claim on his favor or vie for positions of honor to his right or left.
If we have heard and internalized anything at all from Mark’s Gospel this past year, it is the realization that in his realm there will be found a rag-tag, sometimes confused and sometimes doubtful bunch of misfits who sometimes talk big and then act small. They will be blind but yet cry out, “Lord, Have Mercy.” They will be deaf, sometimes act as if they were possessed by evil, and they will be not-so loyal friends who sometimes can’t be found at the moment of greatest need. Yet they are the ones who have the fish and bread and are told to feed the hungry. They are the in the boat. The fish all night long and get nothing until he tells them where to cast their nets.
Remember in Mark’s Gospel there are no singing angels, adoring shepherds, and no visitors from afar with strange royal gifts. There is no gentle virgin and humble silent carpenter. There is just a wild man from the desert who picks him out of the crowd, and with an image of the sacrificed Passover Lamb recognizes him and directs our attention to the Lamb of God. Chapter after chapter, he rejects and runs from crowds who want to make him their “King.” He has only one crown in mind, and when it comes, they won’t be cheering they will be jeering.
It’s time now to end this year of grace, and turn to the east. It is time to look for what we have been promised, not a King, but a Savior. Not a place of privilege and ease, but a place among the humble with the sick, the broken, the abandoned, and those cast off in a world still too deaf to the Good News of the Gospel and too blind to see the glory of God in the face of a Christ, the anointed one who lives with us in the poor, the homeless, refugees, the sick, the gay, the black, brown, yellow, and white people who still wait and long for a time of forgiveness asked and forgiveness given, for a time of peace, of joy, and hope. That is what our Advent next week puts before us, a time of now but not yet. It is a time to look dimly into the light of dawn and see what is yet to come, who will come again, what he will look for in us and how he will judge what we have done with what we have been given.Traditions suggest that Mark near the end of his life was a companion of Peter in Rome during a time of terrible persecution. If so, the source for his Gospel is Peter, a betrayer and not-too dependent friend, yet one who walked on water when called to do so. It is a Gospel for our times, and it is Good News for people like us who can find ourselves in every story of the Gospel. Let us pray today that we shall also find ourselves hard at work for the sake of the one comes when he comes probably not on a golden cloud, but once again on a donkey to gather us all around the eucharistic table and feed us once more on bread of life that lasts forever.